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Killala listening process to help plan for a time of more parishes than priests

By Cian Molloy - 01 March, 2019

Planning for the future was put at the top of the agenda in the Diocese of Killala last night when Bishop John Fleming launched the second stage in an extensive listening process at the Newman Institute in Ballina.

After the process was launched in January last year, a diocesan steering committee was set up to discern and reflect on the changes in store for the Church.

At present, Killala has a population of 37,000 Catholics, including 37 priests, but a recent survey found that only 30 per cent of Catholics practise their faith and it is also reckoned that in less than 20 years, by 2037, the diocese will have 6 priests at most in full ministry, and maybe as few as only 3, to serve its 22 parishes.

In July 2018 an assembly was held with 300 delegates expressing a preference about 129 different proposals devised by the steering committee. Following that meeting it was decided to appoint focus groups to further extend the consultative process.

There are more than 100 people involved in these focus groups, which are looking at 10 separate areas: family pastoral care; prayer; liturgy deacons; youth; parish management; lay participation; inclusion; women in the Church; education in the faith; and vocations. The groups are expected to complete their deliberations by December this year and, subject to approval, it is expected that their recommendations will start to be implemented in 2020.

The initiative is for all Catholics of the diocese, whether they attend Mass on a weekly basis or not at all, said Bishop Fleming, who is particularly keen to hear the voice of young people in consultations.

“In what we are doing I am guided by the words of Pope Francis,” said Bishop Fleming, quoting the Holy Father. “Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.”

Bishop Fleming confirmed: “The outcome of the ‘Placing Hope in Faith’ listening process will result in proposals which will inform diocesan policy and underpin our Pastoral Plan for the Diocese.”

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